• Christian Paul

Strategic subject selection is ruining the VCE experience

I should do Methods because it gets scaled up

This isn’t a new argument. For years, students have been strategically selecting their Year 11 and 12 subjects based on one of two things:

  1. How the subject is scaled for the ATAR

  2. How difficult subject is to score well in

Do you see any mention of whether or not students enjoy the subject? Or any mention of goals outside of the ATAR?

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The ATAR system kills students’ desire to learn what they are passionate about.


Instead, they learn what they think will give them the best chance to get into a course that they (usually) aren’t sure that they want to do.

I know someone who did that…

Last year, I tutored a lovely young lady by the name of Chloe. Chloe had asked for my help towards the end of her Year 11 (and we continued to work together throughout her year 12) because she was having a little bit of trouble with Maths Methods.

As we moved throughout the year, I frequently asked Chloe what she wanted to study. Her answers changed a few times. But the two most common ones were veterinarian and journalist. She took on Methods because many universities state Methods as a prerequisite for entry into a Science course.

Now, while there are a few concepts in Methods that are used in general science courses, it’s not 100% relevant. There are large portions that would never be used. Not to mention that universities have bridging subjects that can fill the gap if you don’t have the prerequisite. 

As the year wore on, Chloe actually settled on journalism.

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Chloe is now (very happily) studying journalism and couldn’t be happier. She will never use anything she learnt in Methods ever again


Chloe was lucky enough to find a course that she absolutely loves, and is having a great time at Uni. But not everyone finds their calling straight out of high school.

Don’t believe me? Ask my sister

My sister, Ellie, finished Year 12 last year.  She worked her tail end off all through Years 11 and 12. She studied Units 3&4 Psychology in Year 11, and in Year 12 she studied English, Further Maths, History, Health and Biology.

And she was miserable. At least, the school part made her miserable.

Ellie lived about an hour from me at the time, and she used to visit once or twice a month just to get away from home. Home was where the stress was, and she needed a break. She would come down for the weekend just to relax and get away from the stress and pressure. To the point where she almost didn’t go through with exams because it was just too much.

Despite that, she killed it. She got into her course in Psychology at LaTrobe Uni in Bundoora.

Fast forward 8 months. 

Ellie is soon to finish her first year of Uni. Her first year of her dream course.

Or so I thought.

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Ellie is considering discontinuing her course because she has found she just doesn’t love it.


Sure, it’s interesting. But the idea of working in Psychology forever turns her right off. She was thrown in and forced to decide what course she wanted to study straight out of the gate.

And rushing that decision (which isn’t her fault) caused her to choose to study something that she didn’t really feel passionate about.

There are so many people like Chloe and Ellie

Every single year, I hear of countless students who choose subjects based on what they think will make the system for them. Not what they are passionate about.

The pressure is on, more and more, to choose a life-long career path from an age at which students aren’t trusted to vote. VCE starts at 16, and it is surprisingly difficult to change subjects once committed.

These days, it’s all about the ATAR.

But shouldn’t it be about the learning?

#educationsystem #subjects #vce

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